Saturday, August 18, 2012
A Ballet of Violence.
Directed and written by: Gareth Evans
Starring: Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim, Donny Alamsyah, Yayan Ruhian, Pierre Gruno, Ray Sehetapy, Tegar Satrya, Iang Darmawan.
Running time: 101 min.
You should never underestimate simplicity. Simplicity, when it is done in glorious simple form, can be the most interesting thing out there. The premise for The Raid is extremely simple: a whole lot of cops go into an apartment block to take down a drug lord. While they expected to just go in and come out with the guy in handcuffs, they find that many of the drug lord's henchmen are well equipped with weapons. Once a couple of the cops get shot, all hell breaks loose. Many action films would supply the good guys with plenty of escape routes, but maybe some complications on how they can get out of them. The Raid takes place almost entirely inside the apartment block, and there's no way out. It is that simple idea of enclosure that makes The Raid one of the most adrenaline-pumped, intense action films that I've seen in a while. And I don't even like this type of film.
The Raid is the exact definition of an action film. Welsh-born writer/director Gareth Evans doesn't waste much time with character development. In fact, the closest to character development we get is probably through the character of Rama (Iko Uwais), who has a pregnant wife at home and also another little secret which makes you root for the guy even more. But I wouldn't really go into this film expecting to have you heart ripped out because you really feel for some of these characters. It is a classic situation of one good team, one bad team, and hoping that the good team rules the day. These teams are bound together with some of the most expertly choreographed, no holds barred fight scenes. It is like watching a ballet, but instead of graceful, beautiful dances, we get blood, guts, guns, knives, and a whole lot of punching and kicking. You know that there is a story there, yet it doesn't seem to matter all that much. Evans goes by the mantra of showing rather than telling, and let's the violence speak for the film. It never feels like a collection of action sequences glued together with a glue stick, though. There are moments of true desperation, mostly due to the setting. It is exactly like those nightmares that everyone has where you're trapped somewhere and something is chasing you but you can't get out. For these guys, it is exactly like a nightmare. Unfortunately, they don't have the luxury of waking up and everything being okay. They have all the weapons at their disposal, and some people can take more advantage of that than others.
The fights are glorious, because you can actually tell what is going on. I've found that most action directors mistake intensity for five billion cuts per minute. Evans, however, sets his fight scenes up with simplicity, allowing us to see everything that is happening, which makes it even more affecting. Every kick, every stab and every gunshot is seen, heard, and absorbed. It helps that the guys performing the fight scenes don't look mechanical. What they do is visceral and exciting; you can almost taste the blood dripping off them. You can say all you want about the gravitas of the men in The Expendables, but they looked like they belonged in Real Steel with all the other fighting robots. The men in The Raid all know exactly what they're doing, and they do it well. Robots can't make an action sequence filled with death look as balletic as it does in this film.
Never underestimate simplicity. When dressed up with such visceral terror, it can be a haunting, claustrophobic experience. I may have only seen The Raid in my own home on a TV screen, but it was plain to see that it was a true piece of cinema. Only through a lens could you capture such adrenaline, intensity and violence. While cinema should be predominantly used to tell a story, it is always nice to see a story so well shown on screen.
What I got: